How Can Learning New Languages Help You and Your Career?

Women sitting around a desk at work - all talking and smiling. How can learning new languages help you and your career?

Ever wondered which languages might help you in your career? Or even the benefits of knowing more than one language? Look no further than this guest post from the folks over at Jooble. Jooble is a Ukrainian IT company that hosts a job search website – the second most visited employment website around the world. Its 590 employees communicate in at least 25 different languages – so they know what they’re talking about!

It used to be that knowing a second language just gave you an advantage when it came to your career, but now it’s seen as a necessity. Globalisation, political and trade relations, immigration, and economic and cultural dialogues are developing day by day, so if you don’t know another language, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the competition and – better yet – succeed.

Learning a new language is definitely an enjoyable, useful, and inspiring process. It can also help us discover entirely new and unexpected interests, meet new people, or even re-discover our own heritage.

So, in this article, we’ll explore why learning a foreign language will help you progress and succeed in your career, as well as the benefits of knowing more than one language both for your own personal development and for understanding your identity in our globalised world.

Why is it important to learn a foreign language?

We’ve come up with just a few reasons why it’s important to learn a foreign language – whether you’re looking to use a language in your career or not.

Studying a foreign language trains your brain

Learning a language is a great way to keep your brain healthy and sharp. People who speak more than one language improve all kinds of skills – problem-solving, critical thinking, analytics – as well as their memory. Learning languages can also help you concentrate better, make you a better listener, and make you more creative, flexible, and adaptable.

Plus, having learnt a language (or two) is especially helpful as you age! Being bilingual or multilingual can help stave off mental ageing and cognitive decline.

Connection to other cultures and people

Obviously, learning languages has many advantages. Being able to communicate in another language means we’re exposed to the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people who speak it. It makes us better at empathising with other people and understanding their culture, while also helping to broaden our own outlook.

Our language skills, in fact, can help overcome communication barriers around the world. Languages help us find friends in every corner of the globe. Nelson Mandela expressed something wonderful about the importance of language learning when it comes to relationships between people:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.

Make travel more enjoyable

We all know it’s easier to travel around a different country if you know some of the language spoken there. This especially true if you hit the road yourself. Without language skills, you’ll hit obstacles when you try and get even the simplest information about where to go and how to get there, or about local attractions and routes.

Sometimes, we think we’ll be able to say everything we need to if we’ve just got access to a dictionary but, in reality, the effort of consulting a dictionary means we miss out on all-important eye contact and lose the spark of immediate face-to-face connection. Yet, when travelling abroad – surrounded by a different culture and often in an unfamiliar environment – there are always things we need to know. And without some basic language skills, we’re not going to be able to ask the questions we need to make ourselves comfortable. This can lead to us missing out on incredible experiences.

Not just that, either; not being able to understand the language around us can expose us to a little extra risk. We’re more likely to catch on that something fishy is happening if we can understand what people around us are saying. And if we get the basic gist of what’s what, we’ll feel more comfortable in the environment we’re visiting.

Why will learning a foreign language benefit you in your career?

The labour market is like a big racetrack, where you’re constantly trying to get ahead of other runners. Progress is often directly related to your ability. People who have no qualifications but who are fluent in foreign languages can find employment – a lot of the time – more easily than those who are better qualified but don’t know other languages. Maybe this isn’t fair.

But the labour market has its demands. Today, well-paid jobs often require knowledge of languages. This is particularly true if you want to move to another country for work or if you want to study abroad.

The key to successful language learning, however, relies on one thing: motivation. Without a clear understanding of why you’re doing it, it’s unlikely to work out in the long run. Just thinking ‘because I need to know the language’ isn’t enough. You need a clear goal – why do you need to learn a foreign language?

So, keep yourself focused on your end goal and find ways to motivate yourself to learn. For instance, you can make the learning process rewarding by trying games-based learning apps like uTalk. You can try listening to foreign language films or broadcasts. If possible, you can even test out your new language skills in the real world by talking to native speakers.

And if your goal is to find a good job, then you need to know that speaking one or more foreign languages can make you more employable, more desirable and more in demand.

What are the foreign languages most in demand in the job market?

As we’ve mentioned, knowledge of a foreign language provides much better opportunities to find a good job, particularly in travel, tourism, and international businesses. What an employer is specifically looking for depends on several factors, such as where they’re located, their industry, the type of vacancy, which countries they are likely to be trading with, which foreign languages are studied at schools and universities, which foreign-language speakers are most common in the country, and which future international markets they want to break into.

The good news is that, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already fluent in English. This means you’ve already got a head start because about one billion people worldwide – or 20% of the world population – speak English, making it a lucrative language to learn. It’s the most important language for international communication. It’s the language of politics, diplomacy, business, science, and sports. Plus, around 80% of the world’s information is stored in English.

But to get a competitive edge in the job market, it helps to speak another language too.

According to expert analysis of the American labour market, the top 10 foreign languages in demand in the US workplace are:

  1. 1. Chinese (Mandarin)
  2. 2. German
  3. 3. Portuguese
  4. 4. Japanese
  5. 5. Spanish
  6. 6. Korean
  7. 7. French
  8. 8. Arabic
  9. 9. Hindi
  10. 10. Russian

Chinese (Mandarin)

Chinese tops the list, being the preferred foreign language in almost all influential businesses. Although there are more vacancies for people who know Spanish, if we look at the salary size and the (relatively) small number of people who speak the language in the US, it becomes a leader.

German

If you decide to learn this language for your career, be prepared to study hard. The German language has a reputation for being among the hardest European languages for native English speakers to learn. Ultimately, your proficiency in German may help you capture something even more elusive: a lucrative job. German multinationals value German fluency in potential employees.

Portuguese

Portuguese is the next most popular language sought by US employers, behind only Chinese, Spanish, and French. Sure, there are 32 times as many job listings for Spanish speakers than for those fluent in Portuguese. But consider this – over 60 times as many undergrads are learning Spanish in comparison to Portuguese according to the Modern Language Association. That gives Portuguese-speaking job seekers a competitive edge.

Japanese

Knowing Japanese grants you access to Japan’s high-tech economy, the third-largest in the world and consistently ranked as one of the most innovative. Many Japanese multinational companies value proficiency in Japanese among their potential employees.

Spanish

You don’t have to travel far to use your Spanish skills if you’re based in the US; Spanish is widely spoken throughout the southern hemisphere and is the second most spoken language in the country. Employers there demand Spanish more than all the other languages on this list combined.

So, why isn’t it number one in our rankings? Well, there’s two reasons for that – jobs requiring Spanish speakers have the lowest median salaries among all the languages here, and there’s an abundance of Spanish speakers in the job market. Spanish is by far the most widely studied language in American colleges and universities. Plus, you’ll be competing with millions of Americans for whom Spanish is their first language.

Korean

Next, Korean. In Korean culture, it’s important to know your business partner personally, so even a little bit of the Korean language can go a long way toward cementing that trust.

French

Although French has a history as an official language of the United Nations, NATO, and the Olympic Committee, these days it seems like Arabic or Farsi would give you a better shot at a diplomatic career. According to the Modern Language Association, French is the second most studied (behind only Spanish) language in American classrooms. French is relatively similar to English, making it easier for English-speakers to learn than many other languages.

Arabic

Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world and growing US interests abroad are increasing the importance of this language to all employers, public and private.

Hindi

The next language is Hindi. Despite tremendous growth, Hindi, the fourth most spoken language in the world, is not popular among American students. However, the US State Department is hopeful, “As India’s profile continues to skyrocket, proficiency in Hindi and the nuanced cultural knowledge gained through Hindi language study will be in high demand.”

Russian

The demand for Russian is not as great in the United States as it has been in formerly Soviet nations, but it continues to be one of the most in-demand languages among employers in both the public and private sectors due to its international relevance and unique versatility.

So, which language do you need – or want – to learn for your career or personal life? One from this list, or something else entirely? Well, if you’re just getting started – or looking to brush up on your speaking and listening skills – then uTalk can help you out. Click here to check out the range of languages they have to offer and get started today.

Good luck with your language learning!

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